Planning the perfect weekend mountain bike trip to Southern Utah can seem like quite the task. There are so many trail networks to ride and things to see. We’ve narrowed down the options for you so you know which trails to ride, where to stay, and what to do while you’re in the area!
St. George or Las Vegas are both good starting points for a weekend of riding. From Las Vegas however, you will need to plan a few extra hours of driving at the beginning and end of your trip — so St. George is really the easier option. If you don’t want to fly with your bike, Over the Edge Sports in Hurricane, UT is a great local resource for bike rentals and trail beta.
Today, ride to the JEM Trails System. The JEM network of trails has options for all rider levels and doesn’t have too much climbing so it’s a nice way to kick off a full weekend of mountain biking. Highlights include: fast flowy downhills, some sections with exposure looking down at the Virgin River to add a little thrill, and some easy ascents to get your heart pumping.
You could spend a whole week riding the network of trails on Gooseberry Mesa and never get bored. The Gooseberry trails are well-marked with signs at every junction and paint on the slickrock to keep you going in the right direction. Prepare to ride all day over incredible and often challenging slickrock. This kind of technical riding requires quick reactions, good balance, and cardio endurance for all the short ups, downs, and quick turns you’ll encounter.
After riding today, load up your bike and head east through Zion National Park to Red Canyon along scenic highway 12. Camp here tonight (hot showers, flushing toilets) and get ready for tomorrow’s trails where you’ll get a taste of a different type of riding.
Rise and shine to explore the Thunder Mountain Trail. This fun 8 mile loop on mostly hardpacked smooth trail is accessible to a wide range of riders — as long as they’re willing to endure a few short sections of switchbacking hike-a-bike. The reward is twisting trail that, when ridden east to west, is a net loss of elevation. Riding through the crazy rock formations on Thunder Mountain trail is a wholly different experience than the riding at JEM and Gooseberry and is not to be missed.
You’ll finish Thunder Mountain Trail and have just enough time to rest your legs in the car as you head back to St. George to wrap up your weekend.
This itinerary is designed to hit the best of Southern Utah singletrack in one weekend. But if you are really trying to pack it in, add an extra day or two to your schedule to knock out the rest of the region’s best.
From Thunder Mountain, head west towards Brian Head ski resort and explore the epic high-alpine singletrack around Navajo Lake before making your way back to I-15 via Cedar City. Don’t forget to stop and take in the view at Cedar Breaks National Monument. If your interest lies in back in the slickrock sandstone outside Zion National Park, head back through Springdale to check out Little Creek Mesa.
Mountain biking may be the mission of the trip, but while you’re in the area, consider making time to hike a trail or two in Zion National Park. Rinse off the dirt in the nice relaxing showers at Zion Outfitters’ and chow down at Oscar’s where the portions are large and the food/beer selection has something for everyone. Make the drive from Thunder Mountain out to Bryce National Park for a photo opp and a short hike along the rim.
Camping? There are endless opportunities for free, at-large camping along SR-9 and Sheep Bridge Road. Red Rock Canyon State Park is the perfect place to stay near Thunder Mountain, with hot showers and flushing toilets.
Prefer to sleep indoors? There are inexpensive hotels in St. George, Hurricane, or Springdale, UT.